The following ten startup fears are by no means an entire list of every single worry that entrepreneurs will face when launching their new business. However, they are (arguably) ten of the most common fears that hold them back from ever launching in the first place.
1. OMG! Where do I start?
This is a common fear that exists in the conception phase of any new business. It’s one of several ingredients that can lead you into an endless sea of paralysis analysis; leaving the door open for a competitor to swoop in and steal all the potential customers eagerly awaiting the launch of a product or service just like yours.
Find a mentor whose made significant headway in the industry you’re entering into. Read everything you can about them – the pitfalls they avoided, failures that daunted them, etc. Track them down and see if you can’t get some personalized advice from them about your situation and what they think you need in order to succeed.
Simply put: You do need a mentor, but finding one isn’t as easy as simply asking, in most cases. “You get what you give” is a rule that many of us forget when asking successful strangers for help. Read this insightful post by Ramit Sethi detailing how to – and how not to – approach potential mentors and ask them for advice about where to start: Why Successful People Don’t Want to Mentor You
2. I can’t move forward: I’m not the “numero uno” authority on my product or service
This can be one of the toughest mental hurdles to overcome when starting a new business. You’ve got a great idea to start a business teaching people how to invest in commercial real estate, but a voice in the back of your head keeps reminding you that you’re no billionaire deal-maker like Donald Trump is.
Surely your clients will realize this and seek out the Donald’s help instead of yours, right? No, they won’t. First of all, he doesn’t have the time. Second, if you know more than your clients do, you’ll have no problem earning their respect in most cases.
Most business owners simply start off being an “expert” (imagine air-quotes here, not the official written kind) and somewhere along the way they might earn that label. Keep learning and strive for excellence in every aspect of your business and you’ll be fine.
3. Starting a business is risky, everyone thinks I’m nuts
And they’ll be lining up one after the other with the “I told you so’s” if you fail on your first attempt at entrepreneurship. This is how society maintains a class structure and keeps the upper class from growing too fast.
Who cares? Yes, the smart money is on getting that job with your brother-in-law’s transportation company as a sales rep, so he can reap the rewards of all your efforts and pay you a paltry salary in return. It’s a guaranteed paycheck after all.
Get over it! You have an entrepreneurial spirit and you don’t want to work for someone for the rest of your life, going on all inclusive trips to Jamaica and Barbados once a year for a week, only to die with enough money in your bank account to barely cover your funeral.
Where will the naysayers be on that day?
4. I ain’t got the moola – Mr. Bankman and Ms. Venture Capital don’t want to help me!
For crying out loud! Read this list of billion dollar companies that started with their offices in dilapidated garages, wooden sheds, cars, and their parent’s basements: Garage to Greatness: 10 Billion-Dollar Companies that Began by Sharing an Office with a Car
None had the luxury of immaculate credit ratings or instant angel investor or venture capital funding.
You gotta do it the old fashioned way from the ground up. Don’t drink, smoke or foolishly eat your profits away – instead invest every dime you make back into the business. If you don’t think the sacrifice is worth it, you’ll probably never get where you want to be anyhow.
5. Nobody believes in what I’m doing.
They aren’t gonna give you a hanky and a shoulder to cry on either. So how are they actually helping?
Your startup may not take the traditionally-accepted 5 years to attain and sustain profitability. It will probably take a lot less than that once you get moving and stop moping about the lack of belief and support from the other people in your life.
History is filled with men and women who had to persevere and achieve their goals all on their own backbone because nobody believed that anyone would ever “want a personal computer in their home” or because of a lack of belief that anyone man could make money from people posting about what they ate for dinner (with picture included) on a website.
Jobs and Zuckerberg didn’t give a crap what their haters thought. Think they or their families care if people believe in them circa 2015?
6. How will I get customers in the door?
This is a smart and relatable fear that any startup owner really does need to concern themselves with. And you have my permission to lose a few nights of sleep worrying about this one. Customers drive your business and for at least the first little while, you’re going to have to really drive yourself hard in order to get them.
Not everyone has the luxury of starting with an established list of eager clients, with open wallets and inexorable respect for the owner.
So how will you get them to sign on the dotted line? Don’t lie, don’t cheat, deliver what you say you will, never scrimp on quality, offer discounted promotions to get some traction, and flat out be prepared to work your buns off until you’re considered the go-to business in your sector.
Consult a marketing expert whenever possible and/or when all your best customer acquisition efforts don’t seem to be producing results.
7. Fear of success or the demands that come with it.
You might be the type to lose sleep every night worrying about how you’ll manage to pull (truckloads of) money into your business. That makes sense, as I’ve already discussed.
On the flip side of the coin are those who’re scared to death they’ll do so well that they won’t have a clue how to handle all the success their business idea will surely generate in week one. This might sound preposterous in some industries, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility in all of them. Say you’re the first trendy falafel shop to open in a small town hungry for a healthy alternative to the greasy spoon that’s been the only fast food place on Main Street for the last twenty years.
Fear of success is counter-intuitive for an entrepreneur. We want to succeed and will do anything to get there. If success becomes so overwhelming that you can’t handle it, rest assured that surely you’ll be able to hire someone to offset the workload, perhaps turning your great idea into a mostly passive income investment that runs itself in your absence.
8. How will this affect my family?
There could be a whole list of potential family-related woes that go along with the concerns you have about your startup business. They all have merit, but only so much.
You might not have time to spend each and every breakfast and dinner with everyone. You and your wife might find that you’re constantly passing each other at the front door, going your separate ways to help maintain the household finances and child-rearing duties.
Maybe the first couple of Christmases and birthdays will be a little tight after launching your business. Little Sally will have to settle for a few small things and lots of love, instead of driving a gas-powered miniature Barbie Cruiser around the neighborhood?
Perhaps it’s neither of the above and you just have a plain-and-simple fear that you’ll embarrass them in front of your community when your business fails?
Here’s the thing: You’re trying to create a sustainable business that will allow you to explore your passions, create the income you feel you and they deserve, give yourself unlimited time and freedom to spend with them in the near future, etc. All to make sure you’re never at the mercy of another man or woman for a paycheck.
Worrying about these short term (potential) family issues is very short-sighted. You’ll figure it out. Make sure everyone has a smartphone with picture and video messaging. Skip other activities so you can spend an hour being joyfully bombarded by everyone at the dinner table, asking you about your day and hearing everything about theirs.
9. Failure is imminent – 8 out of 10 businesses fail before the first year is up!
Entrepreneurs are leaders, not followers. They set trends, they don’t fulfill them. If you’re going to venture out into the world and create cashflow from a concept that started in your head, you can’t go at it with a failure-based mindset.
Innovation is a tough game; there are winners and losers. The good news is that if you lose enough but learn from your losses, you’ll eventually end up on the winning end. And the rewards are generally much bigger than the cumulative losses you’ll incur to get there!
Reassure yourself that the Silicon Valley ideology of each failure brining you a step closer to your endgame will prevail.
Failure likely is imminent, but what will you actually lose? What knowledge will you gain that can help you overcome the barriers to success faster than you ever imagined? Ask open-ended questions like these when the fear of failure enters into your startup concerns.
Rocky Balboa understands you gotta take a few hits now and again to get what you want in life and business:
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth.”
10. What if things don’t go exactly as planned?
Ask your mother or father if they’re proud of who you’ve become. Then ask them if either of them envisioned on the day you were born that you’d land in the exact spot in life that you’re in right now. Ask them how many times they changed their plans for you and how often and how quickly those plans changed.
Your parents adapted to the constant worries and changes that you brought their way. You’ll do the same with your kids. It’s the circle of life…
Now, you’re starting a business of your own, your baby. You’ve got a great business plan and everything for the next five years to a decade is planned out, printed on the most amazing bone white cardstock. The pages are held together by a single gold-plated staple, all is held in a $200 leather document case.
Things have to go according to plan or else…
But they won’t. Some things are just out of your control. And your good attitude, thirst for knowledge, and unending desire to succeed will pull you through the tough days – the forks in the road, the competition who tries to thwart you at every turn, the employees that don’t work out despite your best hopes, the marketing initiatives that just don’t pan out…
You’ll get there. Stop worrying and hurry up!
Someone else might be out there right now, contemplating launching the same business in the same city as you!